Sunday, April 08, 2007

Taking Nature's Cue For Cheaper Solar Power

Solar cell technology developed by Massey University’s Nanomaterials Research Centre will enable New Zealanders to generate electricity from sunlight at a 10th of the cost of current silicon-based photo-electric solar cells.

New solar cells developed by Massey University don't need direct sunlight to operate and use a patented range of dyes that can be impregnated in roofs, window glass and eventually even clothing to produce power.

Dr Wayne Campbell and researchers in the centre have developed a range of coloured dyes for use in dye-sensitised solar cells.

The green dye Dr Campbell (pictured) is synthetic chlorophyll derived from the light-harvesting pigment plants use for photosynthesis. Other dyes being tested in the cells are based on haemoglobin, the compound that give blood its colour.

He says the green solar cells are more environmentally friendly than silicon-based cells as they are made from titanium dioxide – a plentiful, renewable and non-toxic white mineral obtained from New Zealand’s black sand.

“The next step is to take these dyes and incorporate them into roofing materials or wall panels. We have had many expressions of interest from New Zealand companies,” Professor Partridge says.
Very interesting proof of concept they have come up with (although this commenter thinks this technology has been around for 17 years). Not using silicon is important as it is energy intensive to make and currently expensive as the increased demand for solar cells and computing products has gone ahead of supply.

The ability to integrate into roofing material, glass or clothing would make this very valuable and greatly increase the reach of solar power. I hope they are able to get a commercial product released soon.

via Science Daily and Stuff

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